May 14, 2018: Large swathes of Pakistan are in the stranglehold of caricatured feudalism. These feudal relations are increasingly penetrated by finance capital as it imposes itself on social relations, politics and the economy itself. It has made the lives of millions miserable, deepening and brutalizing class exploitation. Rampant inequality and poverty remain chronic issues as millions can still be considered bonded labour. Such a harrowing situation is revealed by the fact that only five per cent of agricultural households in Pakistan own nearly two thirds of the farmland.
In the Indian subcontinent the system prevailing before the advent of the British was known as Asiatic Mode of Production, or as Karl Marx put it, “Asiatic despotism.” The land was not privately owned but a common ownership of agricultural land. In this sense it was egalitarian. Feudalism was imposed by British imperialists through the Permanent Settlements Act. “Classical” feudalism, as described within the European context, never existed.
The Permanent Settlement Act was introduced first in Bengal and Bihar by the East India Company’s administrative head and later extended by Governor General, Lord Cornwallis over northern India in a series of regulations dated 1 May 1793. With it the British colonialists bestowed vast tracts of land mainly to the revenue collectors (zemindars) in order to raise land revenue. This grafted native Indians onto the British structure, insuring their loyalty to British authority.
After partition this class, along with the comprador bourgeoisie, became Pakistan’s hybrid ruling class. In their failure to carryout a national democratic revolution as the European bourgeois did in the 18th and 19th centuries Pakistan’s capitalists failed to abolish feudalism. Thus Pakistan was suspended in a hybrid model of feudal and capitalist relations.
By Farooq Tariq, General Secretary, Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee
This article first appeared on Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal. Read the full article